WInkler Wooly Pigs Farm in Windsor, California, with the recent arrival of Red Mangalitsa pigs from Hungary via the Netherlands, now has three distinct breeds of Mangalitsa: Red Mangalitsa, Blonde Mangalitsa, and Swallow Belly Mangalitsa. Tim Winkler has a breeding program to restore all three of these breeds that almost went extinct with the necessary genetic diversity from distinct lines for each breed of Mangalitsa pigs. Just below, the first part of this three part article tells the story of how and why Tim Winkler got into pig farming plus why he specifically selected the Mangalitsa breed. The second part of this series explores how Winkler breeds and raises his pigs on his pig farm. The third part will examine the quality of the pork from both Winkler’s and some chefs’ perspectives. And the fourth part will detail the Red Managalitsa’s journey to Winkler’s pig farm, a process that took over two years.
Tim Winkler is an aquatic ecologist. He is also a contractor and owner of Winkler Aquascapes. He does aquatic environments based around natural means of filtration that are both biologically and ecologically balanced. These are environments for many things from waste water to fish ponds to natural swimming pools people may swim in without chlorine. So a lot of what his team does is work around large bodies of water where they encounter problematic and invasive weeds that are very hard to deal with through conventional means including either excavation and or chemicals. Chemicals set the table for the next generation of weeds because chemicals add fertility to the problem while excavation creates a large carbon foot print and is very expensive. So Winkler and his teams started to look for traditional means of aquatic eradication. They needed an animal that would go into water. Pigs love water. So they started to research pigs to do sustainable grazing similar to what goats and sheep do in nearby vineyards.
For a long time Tim and his team wanted a prototypical solution. They also got to a point where they were ready to implement this solution. So they did further research to figure out what kind of pig they wanted to deal with. They didn’t want commercial breeds because these breeds have a high stress gene making these pigs destructive and difficult to handle. So then they researched heritage breeds. Many of these breeds are also high strung and problematic. They came across the Mangalitsa and started to read about its attributes including its favorable disposition. Mangalitsa are really hardy and can be left out in the elements. Though truthfully, Winkler and his crew knew nothing about Mangalitsa prior to doing their research. Serendipitously when he discovered and then inquired about the pigs, the breed had just become available for sale six weeks prior to their inquiry. There were other people who knew about Mangalitsa for four or five years, but they weren’t available because Heath Putnam wasn’t selling any of his breeding stock. Putnam was the original importer of the swallow belly variety of Mangalitsa pigs. So Tim and his team were quite fortunate when they decided to pay a significant sum for the genetics that they acquired. They were in the top five or six people to acquire Mangalitsa pigs directly from Putnam.
Winkler was also the second pig farmer in the United States to get the blonde variety of Mangalitsa. Winkler was William Kohl’s first customer. Kohl was the original importer of Blonde Mangalitsa pigs. More recently Kohl was also integral in getting the red variety of Mangalitsa imported into the States through the Netherlands from Hungary. Eight of these pigs arrived recently to Winkler’s pig farm. So for now only Kohl’s farm and Winkler’s farm are the only two pig farms in the United States with the red variety of Mangalitsa pigs. Kohl and Winkler have the only Hungarian registered Reds in North America. (The journey of these red Mangalitsa pigs to Winkler’s pig farm will be discussed in more detail in part three of this article).
However while Winkler’s pig farm was still getting started and just getting its number up, Putnam’s farm sold out to one of its other and largest customers Mosefund Mangalitsa. Putnam had the market cornered for breeding stock since he had the most diverse genetics. When Mosefund bought Putnam out, Mosefund took all the breeding stock off the market because they wanted to have exclusivity. So Winkler had to act quickly to get whatever other genetic breeders were out there in order to keep the breed going. Thus Winkler bought out three other pig farms that had been former customers of Putnam. The fifty pigs that Winkler bought from these other establishments all came with genetic documentation tracing them back to Putnam’s farm as well as another farm Putnam operated. So Winkler’s farm almost acquired all the genetics that had come in with the first shipment of Mangalitsa pigs to arrive in the States. This was when Winkler started to focus on genetics and, in general, promoting the breed.
Though when a farm has so many pigs, and is producing so many piglets, it can’t keep them all. Only the cream of the crop are kept for breeding, so a pig farm doing genetics must have a meat program. Pigs are prolific for a reason. In nature they have large broods to ensure that enough of their species reach maturation since the piglets are the most susceptible to predation. Predation ensures natural selection so only the strongest and best of the species continue to survive. Without predation, the genetics are weakened because too many of the genetically inferior pigs survive. So Winkler selecting which pigs to keep for breeding basically serves a similar function to what would occur normally in nature which, in turn, ensures the strongest and best genetics for continuing the species. Plus practically there simply isn’t enough space to put all the pigs without a meat program.
Some of Winkler’s pigs however are doing the job he originally sought out the Mangalitsa pigs to do. Currently he’s using the pigs on four of his aquascape contracts. According to Winkler, the pigs go right into the water and look like little hippos. The pigs stick their heads under water for thirty seconds or so to eat algae, submerged aquatics, ludwigia, cat tails, hydrilla and all the species of plants that are invasive. The pigs even eat an aponogeton that has an oblong lily pad looking leaf and an uncanny ability to seed itself. The pigs have a nose for finding this aponogeton’s seeds, and sifting them. Going in instead with a crew of men with rakes would get the bulk of the aponogetons out, but would leave a lot of seeds behind to re-germinate. The pigs eat the entire plant including the seeds. Additionally by eating the plants, rooting and pushing the soil down in shallow areas, the pigs make these shallow areas deeper. The pigs clean up the shore lines both through excavation and by eating weeds.
Where Winkler breeds and raises his pigs is discussed in the next part of this article coming soon. Please click here to continue to Part Two.